A problem for "Web as distributed programming paradigm"

Clay Shirky clay@shirky.com
Fri, 24 Aug 2001 15:10:48 -0400 (EDT)

> People doing patch clamping on giant squid axons or C. elegans would beg
> to disagree. Some bacteria and algae cells are large, in the human sense
> of the world.

But no two cells differ by anything like 10^9. The largest single cell
is probably an ostritch egg, and I don't know what the smallest one
is, but the scale of the difference is going to be much more bounded
than the 'bacterium -> blue whale' scale.

> > and a common theme in this information passing is that there is a
> > membrane, and inside the membrane there is a really rich chemical
> > environment...
> That's a severely simplified picture. 

Well, yes. I tried and tried to get all of neuroscience into a single
paragraph, but in the end, I found I had to cut a few corners.

> Conservation of units and clustering them in hierarchical assembly is one
> of the most often recurring themes of biology.

Yep. What I am wondering is whether we've gotten to the point in
networking where the next step requires a change in the model away
from single-computer ideas scaled up, and instead we start clustering
them and then addressing the cluster.

> > membrane-bound. Most of the biological complexity in an ant colony
> > goes on inside the ants, while inter-ant communication goes on with
> > only a handful of pheremones and a bit of antennae rubbing. And yet
> So what, it's a tight code.

There's no 'so what' here, you and I are arguing the same thing. Ants
have something like 20K proteins, and use something like 10 for
external signalling, meaning the difference between internal and
external complexity (at least using protein count as a rough proxy) is

So this is a system where complex internals and a small but tight code
for inter-ant communication works well. Which has obvious analogies to
the REST conversation.